In the market for a new cooling system?
If so, you may be confused on which of the 2 cooling options you should purchase: a conventional AC or a heat pump.
Well, in terms of cooling, they’re the same thing.
The difference is that heat pumps can provide heating, conventional ACs can’t. Which means, if you have a conventional AC you’ll also need a furnace.
So the question is this: Should you go with a heat pump or an AC/furnace combo?
The answer is complex, which is why you should contact an HVAC technician to provide a recommendation based on your home’s build and your current heating/cooling system.
However, to help you better compare your heating options, we’ll share general recommendations based on the following scenarios:
- If you currently have a gas furnace, we recommend simply replacing your AC with another air conditioner (instead of a heat pump).
- If you currently have an electric furnace, we recommend replacing your AC with a heat pump.
But first, let’s look at how heat pumps can both cool AND heat your home...
How a heat pump can both heat AND cool your home
During the summer, a heat pump works just like a regular air conditioner: it takes the heat from your home’s warm air and transfers it outside.
In colder temperatures, a heat pump works in reverse. This means the heat pump will remove heat from the outdoor air and transfer this heat into your home.
Wondering how a heat pump can pull heat from cold, outdoor air? Well, even cold air holds a certain amount of heat. In fact, heat pumps can extract heat from air that’s as low as 32° F.
That said, heat pumps work best in moderate climates (like here in San Marcos) where winter temperatures are rarely below 32° F.
Note: For the few days a year we get temperatures below 32°, a heat pump will use electric resistance heating to keep your home warm.
Now let’s look at when you should consider a heat pump…
Currently have a gas furnace?
If so, you’re probably better off just replacing your AC (with another straight AC, not heat pump) because gas furnaces can heat your home faster and cost less to install and operate.
Let’s look at price first:
- In terms of upfront costs, a new AC will be cheaper to install than a new heat pump.
- Gas is a cheaper fuel source than electricity, so a gas furnace will be cheaper to operate than a heat pump (which requires electricity to operate).
But price isn’t the only advantage of a gas furnace. Most homeowners prefer a gas furnace to heat pumps because heat pumps only push out heat that’s 90–95° F (when outdoor temperatures are above 40° F).
And because our body temperatures are higher than this air (98° F), that air feels cool/cold to some, which might be uncomfortable. Furnaces, on the other hand, usually deliver heat at 120° F—regardless of the outside temperature.
The bottom line? If you already have a gas furnace, it’s probably best to stick with that instead of buying a new heat pump.
If you have an electric furnace...
...we usually recommend replacing both your AC and electric furnace with a heat pump.
Why? Well, electric furnaces are very expensive to operate. In fact, an electric furnace costs about 50% more to operate than a heat pump.
But of course, the decision isn’t always that easy. Whether you decide to go with a heat pump or stick with your electric furnace depends on factors like:
- Your budget
- Your family’s comfort preferences
- How long you’re going to live in your house (to see if the long-term savings of a heat pump is worth it to you)
If you have an electric furnace, we strongly suggest consulting an HVAC technician to determine whether you should purchase an AC or heat pump.
Have more AC or heat pump questions?
We can answer them!
Whether you need help choosing between an AC or heat pump or you need one of those systems installed, one of our trusted techs can help.